GS PAPER – II
Why in news?
- Global rating major Moody’s Investors Service has flagged concerns about security and privacy vulnerabilities in centralised identification systems such as India’s Aadhaar programme. The unique ID system often results in “service denials”, and using biometric technologies in humid conditions is unreliable, it noted.
About Moody’s remarks
- The Aadhaar system enables access to public and private services, with verification through fingerprint or iris scans and alternatives such as one-time pass codes (OTPs). However, it faces hurdles, including the burden of establishing authorization and concerns about biometric reliability.
- The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) administers Aadhaar, aiming to integrate marginalized groups and expand welfare benefits access. The system often results in service denials, and the reliability of biometric technologies, especially for manual laborers in hot, humid climates, is questionable.
- In a report on “Decentralized finance and digital assets”, Moody’s acknowledged Aadhaar as “the world’s largest digital ID program” that assigns unique numbers to over 1.2 billion Indian residents.
- The rating agency termed Aadhaar, and a new crypto-based digital identity token called Worldline, as two digital ID systems in the world that stand out due to their scale and extent of innovation. However, Moody’s also said that they have “drawn scrutiny, especially concerning privacy and security”.
- Stressing that ID systems like Aadhaar lead to the concentration of sensitive information with specific entities and increase the risks of data breaches, Moody’s made a pitch for decentralised ID (DID) systems such as digital wallets, based on blockchain capabilities that give users more control of their private data and can reduce online fraud.
Significance of the remarks
- The rating agency’s remarks assume significance in view of the government’s adoption of Aadhaar for routing direct benefit transfers to beneficiaries of official welfare schemes, and in particular, the diktat to mandate Aadhaar-based payments for labourers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
- Last month, the government extended its deadline for switching to a Aadhaar-based payment system (ABPS) for MGNREGS beneficiaries for the fifth time, pushing it to December 31 this year.
GS PAPER – III
Why in news?
- Mr. Modi made the remarks by videoconferencing before flagging off nine Vande Bharat trains connecting religious and tourist destinations across 11 States.
Prime Minister’s Address
- The Prime Minister noted that 25 Vande Bharat trains were running and now nine more had been added. The day was not far when these trains would connect all parts of the country.
- Indian Railways is the most trusted co-passenger of India’s poor and middle-class people. The number of people who travel on the railways in one day is more than the population of many countries.
About the new Vande Bharat
- The Vande Bharat Express is a medium-distance train service operated by Indian Railways.
- The new Vande Bharat trains flagged off by Mr. Modi will run between Udaipur-Jaipur; Jamnagar-Ahmedabad; Patna-Howrah; Ranchi-Howrah; Rourkela-Bhubaneswar-Puri; Hyderabad-Bengaluru; Vijayawada-Chennai (via Renigunta); Tirunelveli-Madurai-Chennai; and Kasaragod-Thiruvananthapuram.
- These trains, equipped with advanced safety features, including Kavach, will be a key step towards providing modern, speedy and comfortable means of travel to common people, professionals, businessmen, student community and tourists, according to an official statement.
- The new trains have a host of features incorporated after passenger feedback. The seat recline angle has been raised from 17.31 degrees to 19.37 degrees, cushioning optimised and the colour of the seat in the executive class changed from red to blue.
- The changes also include improved accessibility of mobile charging points under the seats, extended footrest and magazine bags for executive class coach-end seats also.
- The new features include provision for securing points for wheel chairs. The new train sets have improved air-tightness for better air conditioning with insulation over panels, better roller-blind fabric with more tear strength with less transparency and smooth touch controls for luggage rack lights. The trains have improved aerosol-based fire detection and suppression system.
GS PAPER – III
Why in news?
- NASA’s first asteroid samples fetched from deep space parachuted into the Utah desert to cap a seven-year journey.
- In a flyby of earth, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft released the sample capsule from one lakh kilometres out.
- The small capsule landed four hours later on a remote expanse of military land, as the mothership set off after another asteroid.
Significance of the mission
- Scientists estimate the capsule holds at least a cup of rubble from the carbon-rich asteroid known as Bennu, but won’t know for sure until the container is opened.
- Some spilled and floated away when the spacecraft scooped up too much and rocks jammed the container’s lid during collection three years ago.
- Japan, the only other country to bring back asteroid samples, gathered about a teaspoon in a pair of asteroid missions.
- The pebbles and dust delivered represent the biggest haul from beyond the moon.
- Preserved building blocks from the dawn of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago, the samples will help scientists better understand how Earth and life formed.
GS PAPER: II
Internet in Manipur Restored
Why in the news?
Recently, mobile Internet services were restored in the state of Manipur.
- It was suspended for over 140 days in ethnic violence-hit Manipur.
What are the Laws Governing Internet Shutdowns in India?
Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885: read with Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency and Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
- Such an order must be reviewed by a committee within five days and cannot last for more than 15 days.
- In an urgent situation, an officer of the joint secretary level or above, authorized by the union or state home secretary, can issue the order.
Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure:
- A district magistrate, a sub-divisional magistrate, or any other executive magistrate specially empowered by the state government can issue orders to prevent or stop any nuisance or disturbance of public tranquillity.
- Such orders can include the suspension of internet services in a particular area for a specified period.
Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000:
- The central government can block access to any information on the internet that it considers to be prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity, defence, security or friendly relations of India, or public order or decency, or incitement of any offence.
- However, this section only applies to blocking specific websites or content, not the entire internet.
It is important to note that the Supreme Court of India has held that internet shutdowns are a “drastic measure” that can only be imposed if it is lawful, necessary, and proportionate. The Court has also directed the government to publish all orders imposing internet shutdowns.
GS PAPER – I
Draft Patent Amendment Rules: Open for Public
Why in news?
Recently, the draft patent amendment rules were made public.
- It could significantly impact access to affordable drugs in India and other countries in the global South.
What is a Patent?
- A patent is a government-granted right that gives the inventor the exclusive right to make, use, and sell their invention for a limited period of time. In India, the patent term is 20 years from the filing date of the patent application.
What are the key provisions of Draft Patent Amendment Rules?
Maintainability of representation in pre-grant opposition: The controller will have the power to determine the maintainability of representation of those filing pre-grant opposition.
- This means that the controller can decide whether or not to allow a pre-grant opposition to proceed.
Grounds for post-grant opposition: The draft rules add new grounds for post-grant opposition, including:
- Failure to disclose the source of biological material.
- Failure to provide a sufficient description of the invention.
- Failure to demonstrate the utility of the invention.
The burden of proof in post-grant opposition: The draft rules shift the burden of proof in post-grant opposition proceedings from the opponent to the patent holder.
- This means that the patent holder will have to prove that their patent is valid, rather than the opponent having to prove that it is invalid.
Extension of deadlines: The draft rules extend the deadlines for various patent-related procedures, such as filing a request for examination and responding to an office action.
- This is intended to give applicants and patent holders more time to comply with their obligations.
- However, it is important to note that these extensions are discretionary, and the controller may not grant them in all cases.
- Clarifying the procedure for divisional applications.
- Introducing a new form for claiming priority based on a foreign application.
- Revising the form for filing an annual working report.
Overall, the Draft Patent Amendment Rules, 2023 contain a number of significant changes to the Indian Patent Act. Some of these changes are positive and will make the patent system more efficient and effective. However, other changes, such as the introduction of a maintainability criterion for pre-grant opposition, are worrying and could have a negative impact on patients’ access to affordable medicines.
GS PAPER – II
Five Eyes Alliance : Impact of Canada’s Allegations
Why in news?
Recently, Canadian PM Trudeau has alleged India’s involvement in the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
- This has strained India and Canada’s relationship. This could have a negative impact on India’s relationship with the Five Eyes Alliance, as Canada is a founding member and plays an active role in the alliance.
What is the Five Eyes Alliance?
- The Five Eyes Alliance is an intelligence-sharing alliance comprising the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Why was the alliance formed?
- The origins of the alliance can be traced back to the Second World War, when the UK and the US decided to share intelligence after successfully breaking German and Japanese codes, respectively.
- The alliance was formalized in 1946 with the signing of the UK-USA Agreement.
How does the Five Eyes Alliance work?
- The Five Eyes Alliance members share a wide range of intelligence, including human intelligence, signals intelligence, security intelligence, geospatial intelligence, and defence intelligence.
- The Five Eyes Alliance does not have a formal headquarters.
- They also cooperate on intelligence analysis and operations.
- In recent years, common interests, such as balancing the rise of China, have led to a closer alignment among the Five Eyes countries.
- Canada’s accusation against India is likely to damage India’s trust with the other Five Eyes countries. This could make it more difficult for India to cooperate with the alliance on intelligence and security matters. It could also lead to the Five Eyes countries being less willing to share intelligence with India.
- However, while the Five Eyes countries are close allies, they do not always agree on foreign policy issues.
GS PAPER – III
Galactic Tides: Hidden Forces That Shape the Universe
Why in news?
A recent study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics found that galactic tides can play a role in the formation of the Oort cloud, a spherical cloud of icy objects that surrounds the solar system.
- The study found that galactic tides can pull objects from the inner solar system and send them into the Oort cloud, where they can remain for millions of years.
What are Galactic Tides?
- Galactic tides are caused by gravitational forces within a galaxy, arising in the interactions between celestial objects such as stars and gas clouds.
- These tidal forces influence various aspects of a galaxy’s evolution.
How Galactic Tides Work?
- Galactic tides are created by the differential gravitational pull of a galaxy’s uneven mass distribution. For example, the bulge at the center of a galaxy has a stronger gravitational pull than the outer disk. This creates a tidal force that stretches the disk and distorts its shape.
The Effects of Galactic Tides
Galactic tides can have a number of significant effects on galaxies.
- Reshape galaxy structure: Galactic tides can create tidal tails and bridges, which are long streams of stars and gas that extend from a galaxy. They can also promote star formation by compressing gas clouds.
- Disrupt smaller star systems: Galactic tides can disrupt the orbits of stars in smaller star systems, such as dwarf galaxies. This can lead to the disruption of the star system and the scattering of its stars into the surrounding galaxy.
- Influence galaxy interactions: Galactic tides can influence the ways in which proximate galaxies interact. For example, they can help to bring galaxies together and initiate mergers.
- Affect supermassive black holes: Galactic tides can affect the supermassive black holes at galaxy centers. When galaxies merge, the black holes in the merging galaxies can also merge, creating a larger and more powerful black hole.
Understanding galactic tides is crucial for understanding the complex dynamics and evolution of galaxies over cosmological time. Galactic tides play a role in a wide range of galactic phenomena, from star formation to galaxy mergers.